Birmingham University upgrades campus network

Birmingham University upgrades campus network

Institution installs 660 WiFi access points alongside 10Gbit/s fibre backbone

Birmingham University has spent £250,000 upgrading its campus WiFi and fibre-optic network.

The WiFi network covers the university’s Edgbaston and Selly Oak campuses, as well as the affiliated Shakespeare Institute in Stratford upon Avon, delivering free WiFi access to an estimated 36,000 students and staff, and visiting students.

The university has installed about 300 Foundry Networks Mobility series WiFi access points, with another 360 to be added by August this year. It also replaced eight 1Gbit/s fibre links with a single 10 Gbit/s backbone, recouping £87,000 in recycled equipment costs.

“We have a massive campus LAN infrastructure with Cat 6 Ethernet cabling everywhere, but the wireless LAN enhances connectivity options for students, visitors and staff,” said John Turnbull, the University of Birmingham’s head of networks in the IT services department.

“It is a parallel network infrastructure with dedicated fibre backbone, Power over Ethernet switches and firewalls linked into the campus network, so another big advantage is resilience. If the wired network went down, the wireless LAN would still be there,” he said.

Students use the WiFi network mostly for email and internet access, but also use voice over IP (VoIP)-enabled mobile phones to make free calls.

“We have tested VoIP over the system and it works quite well, but we have not implemented it yet and we are investigating other avenues as well,” said the university’s senior network specialist Chris Lea.